Jesus is a different type of leader than the leaders we see around him.
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralysed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” 11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” 12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” 13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.
16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defence Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
It’s hard to read this passage and not be totally dumbstruck at the Jewish leaders. They’re just so hard-hearted. Scrooge-ish. Mean.
There’s a man who’s been disabled for 38 years. That’s a long time. Particularly when there were no such things as public hospitals, disability pensions, and community services. This guy would’ve been an outcast for an awfully long time. It’s amazing he made it that long, with nobody taking care of him.
Jesus steps into this scene and miraculously heals him. I imagine he would’ve been pretty happy about it. The word ‘relief’ wouldn’t even scrape the surface. Jesus steps into his life and shows instant mercy and compassion on a man who has longed for it for a long time. Jesus was more than he could’ve ever hoped or dreamed of.
But. When the healed man picks up his mat and walks, the Jewish leaders immediately start wagging the finger at him. ‘You’re not allowed to pick that up on the Sabbath.’ After 38 years of immobility, he stands up and carries something – and gets rebuked for doing it on the wrong day.
The Jewish leaders don’t care about the healing. They don’t care about the man. They don’t care about anything other than catching Jesus and getting rid of him. Their eagerness to be the most influential people in their society made them totally fail to show compassion to those under their nose. It’s awful.
But not Jesus. Jesus came to be a different kind of leader. A compassionate leader. A healing leader. A loving leader. A merciful leader. Which was as ground-breaking then as it is now.
Head: Read through the passage again and contrast the Jewish leaders with Jesus. How are they different?
Heart: The disabled man in this passage had to wait 38 years for Jesus to come along and heal him, but John tells us precious little about how he responded once healed. How do you think he might’ve responded? How do you think you’ll respond when the day of your eternal healing finally arrives?
Hands: For 38 years the disabled man had ‘no one to help’. Who in your life can you show (and be!) the compassionate love of Jesus to? Who are you overlooking?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I’m amazed at the hard-heartedness of the Jewish leaders. But I shouldn’t be, because I’m like them myself. Please forgive me for overlooking the many ways you would have me show love and compassion to those around me. Help me to be the hands of Christ to those who are in need. And thanks so much for Jesus – my compassionate leader, king, Saviour. Help me to trust him until the day he heals me eternally.
A song to listen to: We Have Been Healed